Franky Johnson knew little about Philippine basketball a few years ago. And yet here he is now, one of the bright young prospects for the upcoming 2021 PBA Rookie Draft on March 14.
And for the 27-year-old, his journey here is all thanks to Robbie Herndon.
“When it comes to my journey in the Philippines, I have to give credit to my friend Robbie Herndon,” he told Power and Play by Noli Eala, Saturday.
“He’s pretty much the one who kinda convinced me to come to the Philippines.”
The two have known each other since they were 10. They grew up together in Solano County, California, and even played alongside each other for Fairfield Ballers Elite in the Amateur Athletic Union.
They went on to different colleges, though. Herndon played for San Francisco State, while Johnson suited up for NCAA Division II school Virginia Union in 2015. He then went to NAIA Div. II’s Warner Pacific the next year.
Johnson admitted that he did not receive offers from overseas after his collegiate career. But Herndon, who entered the PBA in 2017, spoke to him and discussed playing in the Philippines, so he decided to give it a try.
“He started talking to me like 2017 – actually 2017 going into 2018. And, he was like, you know, ‘If you still wanna play basketball, I can talk to some coaches, get you in a D-League team,” he recalled.
“But you gotta get your paperwork done first.’ And I was like, ‘Let me know how the whole process is.’ He helped me do everything I needed to do and that’s kinda like how I found my way to the Philippines.”
And as it turns out, he made the right decision.
Johnson proved his worth in the PBA D-League with Gamboa Coffee, Marinerong Pilipino-TIP, and AMA Online Education. There, he normed 22.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in the 2019 Aspirants’ Cup.
He also had himself a memorable run with Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3. He became a champion with Phenom-Basilan during the Patriot’s Cup, and was named Most Valuable Player of the Tournament.
Johnson then quickly emerged as one of the local halfcourt game’s stars. The first Filipino to win a FIBA 3×3 shootout in the 2019 Sukhbataar Challenger is currently the no. 8-ranked 3×3 player in the country.
Now, many project him to be among the sure picks in the draft proceedings, taking place virtually. And for Johnson, whichever team picks him will get itself someone who’s willing to do whatever it takes to win.
“Definitely somebody who can put up the points in bunches, somebody that can come in and score. But you know, just somebody who’s just confident, somebody that’s gonna listen, somebody that’s fearless,” he said.
“And will just do what it takes to win.”